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US Says Iranian Nuclear Program Requires Significant International Response

Senior U.S. diplomat Nicholas Burns said Thursday Iran's non-compliance with calls that it cease uranium enrichment will require a significant international response including possible sanctions. The Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs met with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan, who said his government opposes any use of force in the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

Undersecretary Burns says Iran has crossed all international redlines with regard to its nuclear program, and that it is time for the international community to deliver a strong rebuke to Tehran including possible sanctions in the U.N. Security Council.

Burns met reporters here with his Pakistani counterpart on the eve of the delivery to the Security Council of a report by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei on Iranian compliance with the March 29 council statement, which called on Tehran to end enrichment and return to nuclear negotiations.

Burns, the third-ranking State Department official, said it is clear the ElBaradei report will be strongly negative about Iranian compliance, and that it will now be incumbent on the Security Council to consider punitive action.

"There is no question in my mind that were going to have to see a significant international response, and that will be one of rebuke of the government of Iran for its actions," said Nicholas Burns. "And as I said last week, and as Secretary [of State] Rice has said during this week when she's been traveling in the Middle East and Europe, a great variety of countries are going to have to consult about whether or not sanctions is the right way forward. The United States believes it is. There has to be a significant international diplomatic response to show the Iranian government that this is not a cost-free exercise."

Though U.S. officials have said they are pursuing a diplomatic course to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, which they say has a covert weapons component, they have also said the Bush administration retains all options, implicitly including military ones.

Appearing alongside Undersecretary Burns, the Pakistani Foreign Secretary said his government shares concern about the Iranian nuclear program but wants to see no resort to military action.

"We have also concerns regarding the gravity of the situation relating to the nuclear issue concerning Iran," said Riaz Mohammed Khan. "We made it very clear that we are opposed to any use of force in the area to resolve this issue. There is no military option, and we have emphasized that we look to the success of diplomatic efforts and that there would be a diplomatic solution to this issue."

Undersecretary Burns said the Bush administration is focused on the diplomatic track and that he is gratified by the number of countries who have come forward to express concerns about Iranian intentions.

He said international concern has grown in light of what he termed extraordinary statements from Iran in recent days, including an assertion by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran is willing to share nuclear technology with Sudan, a country Burns termed highly irresponsible.

Burns said in the entire world, only Syria, Venezuela and Belarus appear to support the notion that Iran should be allowed to have a nuclear weapons capability.

The Undersecretary will join senior diplomats of the five permanent Security Council member states and Germany in Paris next Tuesday to discuss possible next steps in the process following the ElBaradei report.

Officials here say there could be a ministerial-level meeting of the same countries at the U.N. in New York, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the following week to discuss a course of action for the Security Council.

Burns and Foreign Secretary Khan spoke as they neared the end of two days of talks in the first session of the U.S-Pakistan strategic dialogue, agreed upon during President Bush's visit to Islamabad last month.

They said they agreed to proceed with a planned sale of U.S. F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, but Khan said the purchase would be greatly scaled down because of cost factors arising from Pakistan's devastating earthquake last October.

Pakistan had originally been expected to buy about 25 advanced-model F-16's. Khan said the revised package would involve a mix of used and new aircraft.

Burns said the administration would begin consultations with Congress on the sale shortly.

The talks here also covered Kashmir, with Burns reiterating the U.S. intention help Pakistan and India resolve the territorial dispute, but not in a mediating role.

He said terrorism and violence in Afghanistan were covered as well, and that the United States wants to help Pakistan uplift the economy of tribal areas along the Afghan border, from which Taleban and al Qaeda elements have operated.

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